DUBLIN, Ireland (HedgeWorld.com)–Bear Stearns Bank plc recently won regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Ireland to extend custody and trustee services to Irish-authorized funds.

The stamp of approval from Irish regulators will allow Bear Stearns to leverage its position as a top hedge fund prime broker to add new clients from among a growing number of Ireland-domiciled alternative investment funds.

The push by Bear Stearns to add Dublin funds will be spearheaded by Mark Sweeney who is director of custody and trustee services for Bear Stearns Bank plc.

Irish-authorized funds being targeted by the brokerage and its custody and trustees group include UCITS and retail funds as well as professional investor funds and qualifying investor funds, aimed at the high-net-worth crowd, according to the firm.

Bear Stearns Bank plc acts both as a market maker and derivatives trading clearinghouse, handling a full range of products ranging from interest rates, collars and currency swaps to forwards and swaptions.

At the start of 2002, the Bear Stearns Bank plc unit had about 33 employees based in Ireland and England, overseeing assets of US$4.4 billion. The larger U.S.-based Bear Stearns Cos. Inc. has 10,500 employees worldwide, overseeing assets in excess of US$31 billion.

Industry insiders also suggested the broker’s strategic move hinted at increasing global competition among top-tier investment houses looking to expand their presence in the hedge fund sphere, known for its high transaction volume and fee-rich environs. According to industry observers, a drought in the IPO market brought on by bearish conditions has left many brokerage houses looking to boost revenues by growing their roster of hedge fund clients.